Unsafe at any speed

August 22, 2022

Another academic quarter of teaching (Summer 2022) has just ended, meaning that it’s time for me to make another quixotic attempt to get back in shape, eat more healthily, get adequate sleep, etc. etc.

Often I like to kick off these attempts with a modest track workout like 4x400m, just to see what my new baseline is. At the moment, though, I’m so unfit that I don’t think my body can handle the track. Instead I’ve had to find excitement in the time-honored tradition of out-of-shape city dwellers everywhere: running for the bus.

The most dramatic version of this occurs when, trying to get home from Everett, I arrive at Everett Station just after the 512 bus leaves for Seattle. This sounds hopeless, but the 512 has to snake its way out of the station and go through a couple of traffic lights to reach its first stop, about four blocks away, on 34th and Broadway. Sometimes if I get to Everett Station within 30 seconds of the 512’s departure I can still beat it to 34th.

Such was the situation today. With some help from the lights, I managed to reach that Broadway block about even with the bus, flailing my left arm as it passed in the hope that it would stop for me. It did! I had made up the stagger!

My satisfaction lasted for about one second. “That was really stupid of you!” the driver greeted me. “This bus comes every 10 minutes!” (Not true; it’s every 16 minutes.) “You should have waited for the next one! All you did was slow me down and make me late!”

“I’m sorry,” I panted.

“No you’re not!” the driver replied. I fumbled with my bus pass. “The card reader isn’t working — just sit down!”

“Uh, yes — I am sorry,” I said, a bit more sharply.

“No you’re not!” the driver insisted again. “You were thinking only of yourself!”

I considered proposing that I might be a more competent judge of my own emotions than a public-transit employee who resents customers for daring to come aboard. Not wanting the road rage to escalate any further, though, I stayed silent.

Every comeback has its hiccups, right?

Maybe next time it would be safer to just go to the track.

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